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Derby dreams: Kit Rosewater’s new novel is the first in a middle-grade series that celebrates new friendships, first crushes, and getting out of your comfort zone

New York-based artist Sophie Escabasse illustrated the book “The Derby Daredevils: Kenzie Kickstarts a Team.” (Courtesy of Sophie Escabasse)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Like many others, Kit Rosewater is hunkering down at home.

In the past week, she’s seen a number of her book signing events get postponed.

But don’t fret.

Rosewater is taking it in stride and getting the word out about her new book, “The Derby Daredevils: Kenzie Kickstarts a Team.” The book is available online.

“I’ve known I wanted to write a book since I was young,” Rosewater says. “This is a dream for me.”

The novel is the first in a middle-grade series that celebrates new friendships, first crushes, and getting out of your comfort zone.

Rosewater says the novel represents three journeys for herself.

The first is being a writer.

In 2011, she began writing the novel. It took her years to finish and is ready for the world.

The second journey saw Rosewater writing about roller derby.

While living in Austin, Texas, during graduate school, she fell in love with the sport.

“It’s the type of sport that really challenges who gets to be athletic in terms of body type,” she says. “It’s also really submersive, which was awesome.

The third was having the opportunity to write about LGBTQ+ issues.

“I realize how empowering it is,” she says. “To have these stories in middle-grade books is perfect. I could fold in my own experience. I’ve written other projects that haven’t gone anywhere. This was the magical trio that I needed.”

Rosewater is based in Albuquerque and says the project did come together quickly towards the end.

A first draft was written in two weeks.

But when coming to auction, she got feedback to change the feel of the novel.

“In that draft, the girls were only in third grade,” Rosewater says. “It was suggested that I rewrite the story to middle-grade. I made them fifth graders. That was the biggest change.”

In the first book, Rosewater wrote an ensemble of characters. With each, she tried to be in their shoes.

Rosewater worked as a middle school teacher for five years and enjoyed hearing the conversations.

“The students will talk about anything,” she says. “I loved hearing about how they saw the world. This is the first time I’ve written an ensemble cast and the scenes were much easier because everyone has a different reaction. I wanted to imagine al of the shenanigans.”

Rosewater also wanted to write about having a first crush.

“It’s difficult to make a positive story,” she says. “I know I didn’t want to do the angsty coming-out story. I wanted to write about what a first crush is with no labels. At that age, you are still piecing out feelings and trying to figure things out.”

Albuquerque-based author Kit Rosewater

“The Derby Daredevils” is illustrated by New York-based artist Sophie Escabasse.

Rosewater says working with Escabasse was a dream come true.

“It worked out that she was my choice for this project,” she says. “She’s going to be a force in the art world. She captured the entire story.”

Rosewater says the series will unfold into other books.

She also dreams of one day having the series become a TV show.

“That’s the ultimate goal for this,” she says. “I do want readers to connect with the book and understand the friendship dynamic that exists on a team.”

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